Towards full control using vision inspection

christophe-venailleChristophe Venaille
Food and Beverage Business Unit Manager

Food packaging is strongly growing worldwide due to emerging consumer trends such as individual portions and ready-to-eat products. Health safety is more than ever critical: while packaging must preserve and protect the foodstuff it contains until it is eaten, it must also provide useful and reliable information for its risk-free consumption.
Manufacturers need to set up a control system as part of their food safety risk analysis. Vision inspection has many advantages in comparison to manual and statistical systems.

The press and the media regularly report incidents occurring in the food and beverage supply chain. Consumers have become increasingly wary of processed products and keep a watchful eye on the quality of what they eat; they are obviously looking for tasty products but will not compromise on health or safety. The pressure is passed onto the supply chain and the manufacturers in the food industry.

Distributors are thus seeking to avoid bacteriological and allergen risks which may occur if the product is packaged in an inappropriate container, if it is mislabeled or misprinted, or if the packaging is poorly sealed. This issue is even more sensitive for products sold under the distributors’ own brand : if a defect is reported, the whole brand will be impacted.

Manufacturers are to solve the productivity/profitability, quality and food safety equation. Beyond the protection of their brand, they also eliminate the impact of a packaging defect on the product life cycle: waste of production time, consumables and energy consumption.
Advantages of vision inspection

Setting up a control system is therefore critical in order to optimize product packaging as it meets the food safety, productivity, profitability and quality requirements.

Artificial vision integrates cameras that operate like a human eye: they check first the markings (printed characters, sell-by date, stickers, codes…), second the perfect tightness of vacuum and modified atmosphere packs. They can even detect contaminants in the sealing areas of sealed or heat-sealed packaging.

Controlling sealing is part of the CCP (Critical Control Points) for sterilized product manufacturers. The advantage of a 100% inspection is that it ensures full control on this issue. Continuous control allows the immediate detection and withdrawal of the defective packaging. The manufacturer does not need to go back and control the batch from the beginning, which occurs in standard product control. Another advantage is that the volume of rejects tends to decrease and in some instances disappear.

The control equipment at the end of the packaging line is its eye and memory. All the packaged products are ‘photographed’, which is a real asset if there is a doubt on a production series. Manufacturers can refer to the saved data to validate later findings.

This automatic, reliable, non-destructive technology takes part in the continuous improvement of the production cycle thanks to the immediate correction of packaging discrepancies. It offers good traceability by making it possible to save and archive data.

Preventing all contamination and guaranteeing full traceability

The Tiama group has been the world leader in the glass container inspection sector for 40 years and entered the food and beverage industry in 2006 under the Luceo brand.

It has significantly grown since this date with more than 200 machines in operation.

The Intermarché retailer – 2,000 stores in Europe – has equipped its own facilities with Luceo solutions. It has invested in seal checking systems in order to avoid product loss during the pasteurization phase.

The Campofrio group, the European leader in the processed meat sector, has also opted for vision inspection in order to increase its productivity while guaranteeing flawless packaging quality.

Fratelli Tanzi, a cured meat producer, has invested in a vision system, upon the request of its English distributor, Marks & Spencer, which imposes on its foodstuff suppliers to meet three obligations: error-free labeling, full traceability of all products, and data archiving.

The US company Hausbeck Pickle Co has also equipped its plant with Luceo systems for the detection of leaks on its pickle packaging lines.

Today these same technologies are used on many applications : sliced cheese, fresh meat, pizza, deli maintained in cool or ambient temperatures, baby food….

Future development

Luceo’s goal is to address all types of packages and be more and more efficient in the type of defects found. In short, the point is to push further the limits of detection and to cover the whole supply chain: from the arrival of bulk raw materials at the processing plant to packaged finished products. In the field of vision inspection we are definitely heading towards full control.

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